IX. CASE STUDIES: 1. SULTANPURI
The resettlement colony of Sultanpuri has a mixed population of Hindus and Sikhs employed in various occupations. Many of the Hindus belong to the lower castes and are employed in various bodies as safai karamcharis. Among the Sikhs are Sikligars (who specialise in preparing metal gratings for building construction), charpoy weavers from Alwar, scooter rickshaw owners, TV mechanics, electricians, and shop keepers. Some also work as scooter rickshaw drivers, rickshaw pullers, vendors and labourers.
It is significant that the members of the two communities lived in perfect harmony prior to the riots. This was testified to by the Sikhs in the various relief camps. On no occasion in the past had there been any evidence of tensions between them.
The Sikh residents of the colony were taken by surprise when in the late hours of Thursday (November 1) the were suddenly attacked by violent mobs. According to eye witnesses the mob consisted of local people and of outsiders believed to be Jats of neighbouring villages (Mundka is one such village). The attacks were directed at the men folk and a large number of Sikh males were killed. Some of the survivors were able to identify these who played a leading role in the attack. The leaders include local politicians, the police and some local people.
In trying to identify and understand the assailants and arsonists it seems indubitable that sweeper urchins, beggars, mechanics, drivers, vegetable sellers, etc. from the local areas were involved. But it was not entirely on their own initiative. Most of the killers in Sultanpuri were led by Pradhans, who were at the base of the political hierarchy. It was they who incited the mobs against the Sikhs and helped to identify Sikh houses and establishments. The Pradhans were in turn linked to the local Congress M. P. Some of the Pradhans who were repeatedly held responsible by the survivors for acts of incitement and for aiding and abetting the rioters were Mr. Chauhan, Mr. Bagri and Mr. Gupta, The M. P. who was most common held responsible for the attacks was Mr. Sajjan Kumar of the Congress (I).
Police connivance with the rioters in Sultanpuri is indicated by the fact that the SHO by the name of Mr. Bhatti reportedly not only killed a couple of Sikhs, but also helped the mob to disarm the Sikhs. The police involvement may be summed up in words of one survivor "Khud mara hai, miley huey the" (they themselves killed : they were in complicity).
Almost every refugee we spoke to gave an identical version. Also involved in the Carnage in Sultanpuri were kerosene suppliers Brahmanand Gupta, Verenand, Master and Ved Prakash who provided the fuel for the Sikh funeral as also a Jat doctor Changa.
Others actively participating were the owner of the Hanuman ration shop, Gajanand, godown owner, Gulab Singh and an auto rickshaw driver Omi. All these criminals supervised the carnage.
The attacks which began on the Sikh residents on Thursday night went on relentlessly till Friday afternoon (November 1-2). Among the directions heard being shouted to the mob were "kill men, rape women". The mobs were equipped with lathis, iron rods and other weapons and carried kerosene with them.
Many Hindu neighbours had sheltered Sikh families and locked them up in different houses. Unfortunately this did not save them from the looting, arson, lynching, and killing that followed. Houses were being identified, set on fire, and Sikh males killed, women were seen carrying away loot from the houses of better off Sikhs : gold jewellery , TV sets and other things were carried off. A lot of property including means of livelihood such has handcarts and rickshaws were systematically destroyed.
The killings were brutal, One Sikh was pushed into a car, which was then set a blaze. Others were hit, thrown on the ground, doused with kerosene and set on fire.
A pregnant women was stabbed by the rioters and some women are reported to have been raped. A graphic account is available with certain members of our team who visited the relief camp at Shakurpur (Pant Bagh).
In a large hail of Shakurpur Camp housing the Sultanpuri victims of the carriage sit a row of women and children huddled together with shock and grief inscribed on every part of their beings. There is not a single boy of over ten years in the group and boys are rare. Each group consists of a women of the older generation, three or four young widows, a few adolescent girls and the rest are children, ranging from ten years to nursing infants. One such household consists of 18 people rendered absolutely destitute with not a single earning member left; all four adult males have been murdered. Two of the younger women have new born babies, one six day old (it was born day before the killings) and another 10 days old. They stared blankly into space holding the babies in their arms too dazed to speak or even mourn. But the older women who had lost her husband and three sons gave vent to her grief bitterly "ab to sabse accha yeh hoga ki aap ham sab ko jahar dila dain; ab ham ji nahin sakte ; kaise jiyenge, kis ke liye jiyenge?" (It would be best to give us all poison, how will we live and for whom?).
She was voicing the sentiment of many of the women present, all of whom had watched their men folk being attacked and cut down, then doused with kerosene and set ablaze. Not one of these were willing to consider returning to their original homes after the brutal massacre they had lived through. How can they even think of it unless the guilty are identified and punished ?.
The blocks most badly affected were A4 (65 killed, 15 missing), P1, 2 and 3 (31 killed and 5 missing) and C3 and C4. From an enumeration done in Camp II (housing about 2000-survivors mainly from Sultanpuri) the figures are 157 dead, 25 injured and 52 missing from this group alone. This means that on an average every second family suffered at least at least one family member dead. According to an expert it is curious that the number of injured is so few compared to the number of dead. In cases of looting and killing due to mob frenzy, the number injured is usually much higher. This implies that the attackers were not disorderly.
Matters did not end with the events of November 1 and 2. During the next two days, Saturday and Sunday (November 3 and 4) the SHO is reported to have got a barber brought to a hall where the Sikhs were herded together (prior to evacuation) and made to pay Rs. 21 each to get themselves shaved. They were threatened that they would get shot if they did not comply. It was reported that the barber made Rs. 500.
Around 5000 Sikhs were herded together till the army evacuated them three days later. Some 800 are still in Sultanpuri under Army protection. Attempts at adequate arrangements for their food were still being made by the army on Thursday, November 8, a whole week after the terror started.
The survivors at Camp II with a few exceptions do not want to go back. Reportedly only 100 from the 2000 in this camp went back. But 20 had returned by November 9th. Even within the camp they are feeling insecure.
The same sweepers who only a few days ago looted their houses and killed their husbands and sons have managed to sneak into the camps for the ostensible purpose of doing the sanitation work. These people are regularly keeping watch on them and spying on their movements.